Reform CEQA, create jobs

Special interests are abusing a well-meant law

The author, a Republican who lives in Bieber, represents the 1st Assembly District in the state Legislature, which includes Shasta, Lassen, Nevada, Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas, and Sierra counties, and portions of Butte and Placer counties.

I campaigned on a promise to change the way our state regulates local businesses, and I believe likeminded leaders in Sacramento now have an opportunity to enact meaningful reforms that will create real jobs and real opportunities in our local communities. My No. 1 priority as a legislator is to find a way to get people back to work.

One of the simplest ways to encourage business activity and investment is for the Legislature to act on the governor’s recent call to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is a state law that requires state and local agencies, including counties, cities and schools, to identify and reduce the environmental impact of building projects.

That law has played an important role in protecting our communities and providing balance between development pressures and quality-of-life concerns, but now special interests and even business groups use the law to advantage themselves and punish their competitors. Activists and lawyers have simply abandoned prudence, while other groups use CEQA to extort concessions from developers and local governments, or to prevent other businesses from competing with their own.

These groups waste millions of taxpayer dollars each year by filing unmerited lawsuits against local governments, delaying or blocking transportation and public infrastructure projects and shutting down development.

In addition to CEQA reform, we must also address the way our state agencies manage and implement regulations. Our agencies are disorganized, ineffective, and frustrating for business owners and private citizens alike.

In recent weeks, some of California’s public employee unions have joined environmental groups in a coalition that has voiced opposition to real CEQA reform. I believe those labor unions should be at the table, looking for ways to get more projects permitted and more people on the job. The environmental community should insist on integrity in the CEQA process in order to maintain credibility when they advocate for real environmental protection.

Public employee unions need to understand that their salaries and retirement benefits are funded by private-sector enterprise, and the private sector in California is still overregulated, overtaxed, and burdened by abuses of the CEQA process.

In Sacramento, I will support any and all efforts to make state and local agencies more responsible and responsive to the people they serve. I hope the governor and the majority party will follow through and bring CEQA reform to the forefront in this session of the Legislature.